Lucky The Rabbit Wasn’t So Lucky

When I was 8 years old, someone gave me a rabbit’s foot. It was dyed blue and emitted a peculiar odor that didn’t bother me at the time. Told that it would bring me luck, I carried it wherever I went. After a week of doing so and not experiencing one iota of fortune, I placed it in a desk drawer where it remained for a long time.

Years later, I was disturbed to find out that it was “real” and not just a toy. Yuck! Since then I have seen many rabbit feet but none like the one that entered our hospital one winter’s day.

Jill brought her 11-year-old male rabbit Lucky into our office to find out why he hobbled for the past three months. At first she thought it was just arthritis since Lucky was very old. Soon, however, the limp worsened and Jill thought Lucky was suffering.

In the exam room, Jill proceeded to explain the progression of Lucky’s ailment. Nodding in acknowledgment, I kept one eye on Jill and the other (I think it was my left) on my patient. I did this because sometimes you can tell a lot about what’s going on with patients by observing them prior to the physical exam.

At 11 years of age, Lucky was grizzled but still very cute. He sat peacefully in his cage chewing on hay. Slowly his head would lower and his chomping slowed as he fell asleep. Then suddenly he would jerk his head upward as if awakening and resume his munching. This sequence repeated itself many times over and reminded me of an old grandpa sitting in a chair, falling asleep while watching television. I also noticed that he kept his right rear leg slightly splayed outward and occasionally gazed at it as if it bothered him.

Reaching into the cage, I asked Jill if it was OK to place Lucky on the ground and observe him hopping about. She agreed, and Lucky didn’t seem to mind. Once placed on the ground, though, he just sat there motionless. With a little prodding, Lucky hopped gingerly across the floor with the injured leg dragging behind him.

Upon close examination, I noticed that Lucky’s paw was deformed by a large tumor. After a quick X-ray, I explained to Jill that the tumor has invaded bone and was most likely malignant. Amid tears, Jill asked if there was anything that could be done. Amputation seemed to be our only option, but at 11 years old, Lucky may not survive. Jill agreed and a few days later I amputated Lucky’s leg at the knee joint.

At the recheck appointment several weeks later, Jill reported that Lucky was doing well. At first he would frequently tip over onto his side. With time, however, he learned to use his amputated leg like a brace, and his balance returned. The biopsy result did reveal cancer, but lucky for Lucky, the growth did not return and he lived two more happy years.

Is a rabbit’s foot lucky? In Lucky’s case it was not. Maybe relying on some poor animal’s foot is not the answer. When you take a walk on The Wild Side, try using your own two feet to get you where you want to be. And, by the way, good luck!

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